Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Ke lepile" and other useful Setswana phrases

On Wednesday, I took the day off--spent the morning unpacking our bedroom and playing with our housekeeper's grandson, who is 10 or 11 months. A and P (P is the other fellow doing research this year) picked me up and we went to Riverwalk, one of the malls around which a lot of life seems to revolve here.

We ate lunch at a little pub-like place, and I was reminded of why I gained 20 pounds when I studied abroad in England--the best-looking vegetarian things on the menu always involve potatoes and cheese. (In England, there was also late night chips and mayo, baked potatoes with cheese, toastie cheese sandwiches, scones, crumpets, muffins--I never really understood why people complain about English food. Throw enough butter in something and it's awesome.) Anyway, the expat/restaurant food here resembles English foods, so need to watch out for that.

Then we headed over to buy phones--I finally kind of know how to use my phone!--and then to the Pick n Pay--a grocery store. I love foreign grocery stores. I will have to go back and really take my time and pick out some fun things. I just want to let you know that even though they had flour tortillas, vegetarian "chicken" patties, and frozen pre-made samosas, they do Not have black beans. We can't find black beans anywhere here. So you see, we are roughing it.

They didn't even have black beans at Woolworth's, a department store that contains a small, more upscale food section. It had a bigger and more attractive produce section and luxuries like lemons and pre-grated cheese, but no black beans.


On Thursday, I had my first day at the children's clinic. In the morning, I met up with L, a woman who I was introduced to through a fellow from last year. L works with young children at a nearby orphanage and is also the wife of one of the doctors here, and I was so glad she offered to walk me to the clinic, as I'm pretty positive I would never have found it on my own.

She also told me about some of the wildlife here--there is a type of yellow bird that builds several hanging nests and then struts about, inviting the ladies of the species to come check out the nests, see if they want to move in. We watched one of these in her backyard for a while.

The clinic was incredibly nice. I couldn't believe it actually--it feels like you're in the U.S. L also showed me the pediatric ward of the public hospital next door, and the difference was enormous. While the outpatient clinic is newish, funded by grants, and run by Americans, the inpatient peds ward is part of an older, public hospital with some serious and quickly evident problems.

Anyway, I joined up with a couple of other volunteers--two Batswana and one German--to run the playgroup, a two-hour somewhat structured playtime for kids in the waiting room. HIV-positive kids come in for monthly check-ups, and they can be in the waiting room for a while, missing school, getting nervous about their appointments, and just generally being bored and doing nothing. We started with the Lord's Prayer (more on Botswana and religion to come), then played circle games (imagine me playing "telephone" in Setswana--I was the weakest link, needless to say), and then opened it up for hula-hooping, puzzles, legos, basketball, etc. Most of these kids have been coming here monthly for a while, so they're used to the playgroup and jump right in.

While I was sitting with some kids during unstructured playtime, one of the Motswana volunteers, D, offered to teach me a little Setswana. Here are the key phrases she taught me:

Dumela mma/rra - Hello ma'am/sir
Lekai - How are you?
Ke teng - I'm well.
O mang? - What is your name?
Ke na Shira - I am Shira.
Ke lepile - I am tired.
Ou lepile - You are tired./Are you tired?

I think I must look jetlagged.


  1. This is Mom and Arielle reading your posts. So you have daily maid service, but no black beans. Sounds tough. Any other kinds of beans?

    And I (Mom) thought you already had phones before you got there, or did you just buy the phone cards there? Well, it all sounds fascinating and it was great to talk to you today.

  2. We have kidney beans, garbanzos...probably some other ones.

    I did have a phone from a helpful friend, but it broke/I broke it plus the sim card was expired, so I needed a new one of those!

  3. They have a Riverwalk too? Of course you feel right at home!